INVESTIGATIVE PSYCHOLOGY:Crime Scene Investigation, Staging

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Forensic Psychology (PSY - 513)
Lesson 07
To understand the Clinical and Statistical approaches of investigation
To understand the different types of crime scenes
To understand the phenomenon of psychological autopsy
To understand the limits of profiling and psychological autopsy
Media Hype vs. Reality
Media presents a large number of films based on successful profiling, like "Silence of the Lambs and
Hannibal" e.t.c. Are they accurate depictions of forensic psychology? Perhaps the answer is no.
Forensic psychologists are not able to become psychically linked with a meticulous killer and visualize
their next move as the heroes in the movies or on television seem to do. So, infact there are more misses
orensic psychology is a discipline based on the scientific practice of psychology. And on the same time
has several imitations as a science. So, while forensic psychologists get the "cool" jobs, they are far
from the situations often pictured and have not many career opportunities in this area, though recently
some increased.
Crime Scene Investigation
Crime scenes typology
Crime scenes can be divided into following three categories
1. Organized
2. Disorganized
3. Mixed
1. Organized Crime Scenes
The criminal shows planning, forethought and an exertion to avoid detection. The individual knows
well, what he is doing and takes every possible step to avoid leaving incriminating evidence police
could use to catch him. So, considerable precautions are made to prevent arrest or identification.
Offender maintains control of himself and the victim. One other very important characteristic of
organized crime scene is that victim is selected rather than being random.
Characteristics of Organized Crime Scenes
1. Planned offense
2. Transports body
3. Body hidden
4. Controlled conversation
5. Demands submissive victim
6. Missing weapon or evidence
7. Victim is a targeted stranger
8. Personalizes victim
9. Crime scene reflects control
10. Restraints used
11. Aggressive acts done before death
2. Disorganized Crime Scenes
The criminal shows no planning or premeditation. Motive of the crime is impulse, rage or some other
intense emotional state. Spontaneous actions and turbulent assaults results in chaotic crime scene.
Victim selected at random and crime scene is usually where the encounter took place. So, Victim is
often by chance like is at the wrong place at the wrong time. Usually, the offender uses materials at
hand. Hurried or blitz-style attack, and crime scene is disarrayed.
Forensic Psychology (PSY - 513)
Characteristics of Disorganized Crime Scenes
1. Body left at death scene
2. Spontaneous offense
3. Evidence or weapon present at scene
4. Victim or location known
5. Body left in view
6. Depersonalizes victim
8. Minimal conversation
10. Crime scene is sloppy
11. Sudden violence to victim
3. Mixed Crime Scene
Mixed crime scene show characteristics from both the organized and disorganized crime scenes. Can
indicate the presence of two offenders, or that the offender planned the crime and was interrupted during
the act. Both organized and disorganized features are present like a crime was carefully planned but
later deteriorated into a disorganized crime when things failed to go as originally planned by some one's
interruption or strong emotions took over. e.g. at the scene of a planned robbery, un planned murder of
Reality is Not So Neat
According to Kocsis, Cooksey & Irwin (2002) suggested that organized-disorganized typology has
limited usefulness. Reality of crime scenes is not so neat and distinguishing organized and disorganized
crime is not as easy as it appears to be and crime scenes exist along a continuum with perfectly
organized at one extreme and absolutely chaotic on the other.
Trophy Taking
The violent, repetitive offender often exhibits another element of criminal behavior during the crime
known as "The trophy taking" .This criminal conduct is a unique and integral part of the offender's
behavior and goes beyond the actions needed to commit the crime. A crime scene trophy is a
meaningful souvenir taken by the offender to remember the incident, to psychologically control the
victim or both. Piece of clothing, a photograph, a piece of jewelry, even a body part of a murdered body
is taken by the offender some time as a signature and challenge "yes this is me catch me if you can".
To over shadow the reality, people stage the whole crime scene. Staging can be defined as the
purposeful alteration of the crime and crime scene by the offender in order to mislead authorities and
redirect the investigation. Staging is a conscious criminal action on the part of an offender to ruin an
When a crime scene is staged the responsible person is not someone who just happens upon the victim.
It is almost always someone who had some kind of association or relationship with the victim. This
offender will further attempt to steer the investigation away from him by his conduct when in contact
with law enforcement. Motives of staging can be several like a family is interesting in getting the money
of insurance and the person who is insured has committed the suicide and the company has the policy to
detach the family from insurance money so, this leads the family to make a suicide look like a murder.
Sometimes family members are trying to protect a relative or the reputation of the family and murder is
made to look as suicide.
Red Flags
Offenders who stage crime scenes usually make mistakes because they arrange the scene to resemble
what they believe it should look like. In doing so, offenders experience a great deal of stress and do not
have the time to fit all the pieces together logically and reasonably. As a result, inconsistencies and
clues in forensic findings are found in the overall "big picture" of the crime scene. These inconsistencies
can serve as the "red flags" of staging, which serve to prevent investigations from becoming misguided.
Forensic Psychology (PSY - 513)
Psychological Autopsy
Psychological Autopsy is the psychological reconstruction of the person and is also called:
Psychiatric autopsy
Retrospective death assessment
Reconstructive evaluation
Equivocal death analysis
The term refers to a specific method used for examining a person's life--specifically, the life of a dead
person. So, it is different from profiling in a sense that:
a) In Psychological Autopsy profile of a dead person is prepared
b) Identity is known
Psychological autopsy is a term first coined in 1977 by the Los Angeles Medical Examiner's Office to
investigate suicide cases (Shneidman 1977). Anthony Spellman and Barbara Heyne viewed that
"psychological autopsy is a timely adjunct to the suicide detection and prevention efforts emerging in
many jails. These efforts can only be enhanced by a thorough review of what went right or wrong for a
particular inmate. Conducted in a non threatening spirit of peer review, the psychological autopsy can
provide staff with closure and new knowledge which will allow them to proceed more effectively and
confidently in safeguarding other inmates"
This technique is generally more valid and reliable the more it remains focused on the manner and
circumstances of death, and does not try to generalize or be extended to non-death situations. The
elements involved in a psychological autopsy are as follows:
1. History :Alcohol and drug history, decedent's history of dealing with stress, medical history,
family medical history, recent stressors in the victim's life, military history, employment history,
educational history, sexual history, dietary history
2. Interpersonal relationships: writings by the deceased, books and music owned by the
deceased, web sites visited, phone calls made, recent conversations with friends, acquaintances,
relatives, co-workers, and teachers, interests and hobbies shared with others, old and current
3. Reactions by any of the above parties to the victim's death: especially as to the degree of
lethality, as well as the usual questions about early warning signs and who might have intended
4. Assessment of intention about the role of the decedent in their own demise: including any
sub-intentional, covert, or unconscious role, this obtained by analyzing the pattern of how the
victim went about accomplishing their goals or life plans.
5. Socio emotional state of the victim: Fantasies, dreams, thoughts, premonitions, fears, or
phobias of the victim, socio-emotional mood swings, mental status exam, concentration and
judgment abilities, IQ.
Types of Deaths
Five generally accepted manners of deaths are:
1. Natural
2.  Accident
3.  Suicide
4.  Homicide
5. Undetermined
Forensic Psychology (PSY - 513)
Clarification of Equivocal Death Analysis
Equivocal death investigations are those inquiries that are open to two or more interpretation. There
may be two or more meanings and the case may present as either a homicide or a suicide depending
upon the circumstances. The facts are purposefully vague or misleading as in the case of a "staged
crime scene." Or, the death is doubtful and dubious and it is when the manner of death is open to
question. The deaths may resemble murders or suicides, accidents or naturals. Forensic psychologist's
role for solving equivocal cases is difficult and important at the same time.
Purpose of Equivocal Death analysis
The deaths that are open to questions usually have very vague and undetermined facts. So, to uncover
the reality, a forensic psychologist is suppose to encounter many difficulties and hurdles as there could
be various reasons of such equivocal deaths. In the US insurance is a big issue and commonly insurance
companies hire detectives and forensic psychologist to find the real reason of deaths of their clients.
Forensic psychologists make a number of reconstructions of that person to uncover the truth.
Involves the use of scientific method, logical reasoning, sources of information on people, experience or
skill to interpret the events that surround the commission of a crime. Bevel & Gardner (2001) define it
as "determining the most probable sequence of events". Reconstruction begins when detectives
conduct a walk-through of a crime scene, imitating the events that may have happened in their minds.
They sometimes call it getting a "feel" for the crime scene, but the process is as much cognitive as
emotional. They are attempting to prove and disprove any sequence of events that may have happened.
Some argue it has been a part of detective work for a long time.
Forensic psychologists keep in view the multifactor like if death appears to be a suicide; assessment of
mental state of the person prior to death is done that whether person was under some stress to commit
the suicide or not.
Then psycho- social factors are being considered that can led to suicide like whether person had good
marital and familial relationships and was successful and financially strong. So, forensic psychologist
will piece the information together and try to look into the whole scenario.
Procedure of Equivocal Death Analysis
Psychologists garner information through:
·  Conducting interviews with family members and people who knew the deceased
·  Examination of personal documents (suicide notes, diaries and letters)
·  Post mortem reports
·  Medical reports
·  Police reports
Us Military and Equivocal Death Analysis
Any death that happens on the military property or of military personnel equivocal death analysis is
done not for insurance but to make sure there was no foul play involved and to improve conditions.
Limits of profiling and psychological autopsy
Psychological autopsy is also statistical like profiling and due to the nature of psychology field, only
statistical approach or merely subjective and intuitive approach is not sufficient. As discussed earlier
there are two distinct limitations of profiling and psychological autopsies.
1. Individual differences
2. Unpredictability of human behavior
Forensic Psychology (PSY - 513)
1. Individual differences
With out individual differences there is no point, no interesting thing in our personality and society and
individual differences make life exciting and enjoyable. Life is not so simple even death. When we are
finding that who have stroke where and when we should keep in mind that we are all different no two
human beings are alike and our knowledge about human nature is very limited as human beings are the
most complex phenomenon. With all new technologies and advancements we still have very limited
awareness as Holy Quran Talks about our limited understanding:
Translation Ayatal- Kursi
Al-Baqara (254) Allah! There is no Allah but Hethe living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber
can seize him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede in His
presence except as He permitteth? He knoweth what (appeareth to His creatures as) Before or After or
Behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge except as He willeth. His Throne doth
extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them. For
He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory)
2. Unpredictability of human behavior
Human behavior is very undeterminable and unpredictable like if we take the instance of a person who
always had been indulged in criminal activities. And then suddenly seeks forgiveness for all his sins and
crimes and become "Fakir" and starts walking on the way of spiritualism. Now the statistics and science
is against that person and do not believe for any such thing but storing faith on humanity we all know,
yes this does happens. On the other hand a very good and apparently pious man commits a crime like
child molestation. So in such cases statistical and scientific approach can mislead. Caution is "never
leave the element of unpredictability"
While talking about the probability one other thing that is important is to discuss that social class
distinction leads to violation of lower class like if any where theft happens, usually it is assumed in our
culture that only servant can steal. But on the other hand, the thought is always neglected that servant
also knows that he/she is going to be the very first suspect? So Socio-economic status can also play very
important role for suspecting any one.
One major limitation of Clinical/subjective approach is that court does not believe on psychological
proves or intuitions and demands for some physical and strong clue. So, if statistical and clinical
approaches have limitations and no perfect scenario is available then why we need forensic
psychologists? How to over come these flaws? For forensic psychology to work effectively we need a
balance in both approaches. When you feel that these people are involved, although only instincts are
not equal to evidences but surely instincts can lead to evidences, your hunch is leading you towards the
evidence so, intuition is needed to be integrated with the statistical probabilities. Better idea is to start
with science and then make it artistic.
Table of Contents:
  1. INTRODUCTION TO FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY:Future of Forensic Psychology
  2. INTRODUCTION TO FORENSIC PSYCHOOGY:Way of police investigation
  4. POLICE PSYCHOLOGY:Use of excessive force, Corruption, Personnel Selection
  5. POLICE PSYCHOLOGY:Fitness-for-Duty Evaluation (FFDE), False Confessions
  6. INVESTIGATIVE PSYCHOLOGY:For instance, Empirical and logical approach
  7. INVESTIGATIVE PSYCHOLOGY:Crime Scene Investigation, Staging
  8. PSYCHOLOGY OF VIOLENCE:Law of Conservation of Energy, Super ego
  10. PSYCHOANALYTIC MODEL AND VIOLENCE:Defense Mechanism, Rationalization
  12. JUNGIAN PSYCHOLOGY AND VIOLENCE:Religion and mental illnesses
  13. BEHAVIORIST PERSPECTIVE AND VIOLENCE:Shadow’s violence, Child’s violence
  16. SOCIAL LEARNING MODEL AND VIOLENCE:Observational learning, Vicarious punishment
  17. MORAL DEVELOPMENT AND VIOLENCE:Symbolic functioning, Formal operational stage
  18. BIO-PSYCHO-SOCIAL MODEL:Mental hospitals are factories of abuse
  20. ISLAMIC MODEL:Nafs al-Ammara, Nafs al-Lawwama, Nafs ul Naatiqa
  21. TREATMENTS FOR THE SOUL:Tawba, Sabr o Shukr, Niyyat o Ikhlaas, Taffakkur
  22. CRIMINOGENIC PERSONALITY:Personality Disorders, Common Crimes
  26. ASSESSMENT OF PERSONALITY DISORDERS:Reasons for referral, Personality Inventories
  28. RISK ASSESSMENT:Violence reduction scale, Stability of Family upbringing
  30. JUNGINA THERAPEUTIC MODEL:Limits of re-parenting, Personality Typologies
  31. GROUP THERAPY FOR OFFENDERS:Learning in Groups, Humanistic Groups
  34. PSYCHOTHERAPIES IN FORENSIC SETTINGS:Avoiding reactance, Externalization
  36. FORENSIC PSYCHOTHERAPY:Exploring therapeutic alliance, Music Therapy
  37. VIOLENCE REDUCTION PROGRAM:Target Population, Lack of motivation
  38. VIOLENCE REDUCTION PROGRAM:Criminal attitude, Interpersonal Aggression
  39. VICTIM SUPPORT:Main features of PTSD, Emotional Support
  40. VICTIM SUPPORT:Debriefing, Desensitization, Eidetic Therapy, Narrative Therapy
  41. SUBSTANCE MISUSE TREATMENT PROGRAM:Marijuana, Unconventional drugs
  42. SUBSTANCE MISUSE TREATMENT PROGRAM:Stages of Change, Homosexuality
  43. EXPERT WITNESS:Insanity Pleas, Sexual Offence Risk, Instructions
  44. COUNTER TERRORISM:Misconceptions, Psychologists & Propaganda war
  45. SUMMING UP FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY:Problems with Risk Assessment, Expert Witness